Saturday, November 29, 2008

Try Buying a Family Gift to Share

David Crary, AP National Writer, has recently written an article titled, Meltdown fallout: some parents rethink toy-buying. He describes how a group of parents involved in the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood are asking toy makers to target parents, not children, in their advertising. These parents are concerned that parents who are facing financial devastation in this economic crisis are unfairly being urged by their children to buy certain toys for the holidays because of ads seen by their children on television. These parents want the ads that target children to stop. I agree with these parents and have added my support to this campaign. You can add your support as well by going to

Since my family is also going through hard economic times, we have faced issues with our children just as this article describes. We have had numerous requests for toys and "things" that we just cannot afford.

As an alternative, we have come up with a unique solution. We have decided to urge more sharing of the "stuff" we have. In addition, we will buy gifts that we can all share as a family. We have found this solution to be very appealing because we can urge more sharing within our family. Of course, our children will get a few personal items of their own, but we have had to cut back on buying gifts that we would typically buy.

With creativity and brainstorming, I am sure your holiday season will turn out well. Do not, I say do not, stretch yourself too thin financially by buying toys your children just do not need. By learning to share, and appreciating what you have, you will find that your children will be just as happy, or even happier in the long run. They will also learn to appreciate what they have a bit more.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

7 Tips to Help Children Weather the Economic Storm

Are you continuing to experience economic stress in your family? If so, I encourage you to review my article, 7 Tips to Help Children Weather The Economic Storm, featured on Basil and Spice (

Basil and Spice is an outstanding and well-known internet news source for author and book views on a healthy life. There are many additional articles about relationships, family, health, and other topics that you may find useful to live life in a quality way.

I wish you the best during this holiday season!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sail Through the Holidays with a Smile

My wife, daughter, my son, and I are on a road trip to California. We are determined to have a happy and meaningful holiday experience, even if the devastating economic crisis hangs over us like a dark cloud. We are not going to let any doom or gloom ruin our fun. Listening to Suze Orman, the financial guru who frequently appears on television, has made me realize that the holidays can be extremely joyful even in the hardest of times. The holidays for us are about being together, singing, eating, reaching out, and taking time to breathe. This isn't necessarily what we always actually achieve because we are stressed out like the rest of you. However, our desire is to wholeheartedly participate in these activities and decrease the emphasis on "stuff." We have to be careful with our spending. As an alternative, we are reaching out more to others.

While driving, I had a desire to reach out to you. Some of you are very happy this holiday season. If this is you, then spend time really counting your blessings. Others of you are having a hard time. If you are one of these people who are facing hardship and/or strife, take a step back and assess the positives that you actually have in your life. Refocus your attention on the small things that bring you joy. If you cannot find anything to appreciate, go outside and find something to smile about. Smile at a child playing or at a squirrel going up a tree. When we refocus our attention on "smaller things," our minds take a break. Once you return to the challenges you face, you will find that your powers of problem-solving are strengthened and your ability to experience joy in your life is enhanced. If you need further tips for managing the stress of the holidays, I encourage you to read a Mayo Clinic clinic article, Stress, depression and the holidays: 12 tips for coping. I wish you all the best.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is Our Field Guided by Science?

In my profession, I continually hear that we need to use evidence-based therapies when treating children with certain psychiatric conditions. I also hear my colleagues saying things like, "There is no evidence that dietary changes reduce the symptoms of ADHD. " It is a nice idea that we as professionals try to be guided by empirically validated interventions in our practice. But are we really guided by science? The answer is ,"yes" sometimes, and "no" many other times.

In many situations, we are not guided by science. In fact, professionals in the fields of child clinical psychology and child psychiatry often practice using a "trial and error" approach. This point is clearly portrayed in the recent article by Gardiner Harris in the NY Times, Use of Antipsychotics in Children is Criticized. Mr. Harris reports a finding from a panel of drug experts that a substantial number of children with ADHD are being prescribed a powerful antipsychotic medication (Risperdal). This drug has not been not approved for the treatment of ADHD by the Food and Drug Administration, the side effects can be quite negative, and the efficacy in the treatment of ADHD has not been established empirically. Judi Warner argues in her subsequent NY Times article, Tough Choices for Tough Children, that children with big problems are being given big, bad drugs because no one really knows what to do with them."

Parents need to realize that our field, including the fields of psychiatry and child clinical psychology, still is not an exact science. There are many times when we do not exactly know how to treat a particular condition and thus, we have to try many different strategies. Medication is often seen as one of the first things to try since we tend to perceive the field of medicine as scientific and all-knowing. But, our treatment strategies are often not well researched and thus, we have to keep trying things to see what works.

As noted in my book, Understanding Your Child's Puzzling Behavior: A Guide for Parents of Children with Behavioral, Social, and Learning Challenges, I firmly believe that parents can be active team members when they are confronted with a child demonstrating extremely significant emotional and behavioral challenges. These parents need to learn how to conduct initial assessments on their own, develop personal philosophies regarding what is happening with their child, and learn about the backgrounds of care providers to whom they turn for help. They also need to collaborate as much as possible with friends, natural caregivers in the child's life (e.g., teachers, family practice physicians), and with the specialists they turn to for help. A coordinated collaborative approach often works bests. Empirically supported interventions should be tried first, but when that fails, other alternative interventions should be tried as well. I encourage concerned parents to buy my book, download the worksheets from our website (, complete these worksheets and implement the expected and valuable insights obtained.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Do We Expect Too Much From Our Kids?

Alan Kazdin, Ph.D. is a very distinguished psychologist and researcher in the field of child clinical psychology. He has just written an article for Slate (http://www., titled, Why Can't Johnny Jump Tall Buildings?. He believes that parents expect too much from their kids when these kids are learning new behaviors and skills. After reading his article, I was reminded that learning often takes much time and practice. We must be patient while our children begin to acquire what we expect them to know and demonstrate. It is invaluable to celebrate your child's successes no matter how small the gains are. Read this article for more tips and advice on how to positively support your child in the learning process.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Discourage Your Child's Obsessions?

In my practice, I frequently encounter children who have very specific interests (e.g., airplanes, movies, Star Wars, politics (believe it or not, this is true)). These children think and talk about these interests constantly, to the point where others, including parents and professionals, begin stating that these children have significant "obsessions." Some of these children may have autism, some may have ADHD, some may have OCD, and others may be considered normal. The question frequently posed is "Should I discourage my child from thinking about this all the time?"

Earlier in my career, I would have answered this question with a definitive "Yes!" However, as my experience with children has accumulated, I now have come to believe that there are instances where a child should actually be encouraged to follow the obsession. If you can somehow make it so that the obsession is a socially acceptable activity with lots of rewards, then allowing the child to follow the obsession is not such a bad thing. For example, if a child is obsessed with American history (this also happens), then teaching the child to be a historian could be a goal. If a child is obsessed with math, teaching a child to be an expert mathematician could be the goal. If a child is obsessed with machinery, a strategy could be to help the child learn as much as possible about different types of machines.

People may fear that the obsession could interfere with other activities, or that the child will not be "well rounded". However, in my mind we have actually become "obsessed" ourselves with the idea of being well rounded. Not everyone is meant to be well rounded. Why does everyone have to be like everyone else? Why can't some of us "hyperfocus" on the things we like and be a little bit odd in other areas of our lives? These are just some thoughts of mine that surfaced when I read the article, Using Your Child's Obsession in Homeschooling . Read this for yourself and see what you think.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Take Your Child with ADHD on a Walk!!

When a child has attention difficulties at school, one of the first ideas teachers, other professionals, and parents think about is that child has ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and is in need of medication. Partly because of this thinking, the use of medication for children with ADHD has risen dramatically over the past number of years. As reported in Pediatrics , the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, during the years 2002 to 2005 the number of children with ADHD who were prescribed medication increased a whopping 40.4%. Similar increases in the prevalence of medical intervention were seen for children with autism, depression, and diabetes. Concerns about this alarming trend have been voiced by experts in the field. For example, Stuart A. Seale, MD, board-certified family physician, has voiced concern that our medical establishment is treating pediatric chronic diseases with the same approach as that used with adults--primarily through the use of medications.

If you have a child with attention difficulties, there are many other more natural interventions to try before medication is utilized. Tara Parker-Hope has recently reported in the New York Times that researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that walking in nature was just as effective in helping children with ADHD concentrate as was a dose of medication. This is an exciting finding. We have all known intuitively that being in nature helps children with attention challenges and now we have the data. When your child has attention difficulties in school and/or elsewhere, I encourage you to take the child for a wonderful walk in nature. Try this and other natural remedies first, before any type of medication is used. Even if your child is already taking medication, get outside! It can't hurt!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tough Talk for Tough Times

Tough Talk for Tough Times

I and others were recently interviewed by Alandra Johnson of the Bend Bulletin about how to help children in the current economic crisis. She has summarized her findings in an excellent article called, "Tough Talk for Tough Times"( Included in the article are valuable suggestions regarding how to talk with your children about the issues you are currently be facing. I enourage you to read her article and sumbit your own comments and reflections.

Additional parenting guidance for the economic crisis may also be found by viewing my recent CNN interview ( and by reading a recent article published by the American Psychological Association Dollars and Sense: Talking to Your Children about the Economy(

Thursday, November 6, 2008

iParenting Media Award Winner!

iParenting Media Award Winner!

Understanding Your Child's Puzzling Behavior has just been chosen for a distinguished iParenting Media Award !! The iParenting Media Award program evaluates, selects, and honors the best products in the marketplace. We are very excited that our industry has recognized the importance and utility of this guide for parents who are looking for ways to help their struggling child find success. The helpful steps to effective intervention presented in the guide can be very helpful for parents of children with any type of behavioral, social, and learning challenge. The guide has been very helpful for those children with ADHD, autistic spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and even normal challenges of childhood. We encourage you to spread the word!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama: Inspiration for Our Children

Obama: Inspiration for Our Children

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

President-elect Barack Obama quote from 2008 victory speech.

"..triumph of the American story."

President Bush's praise of Obama's impressive win.

There is nothing more powerful than to have a role model to believe in, a role model to become inspired by, and a role model to help guide one’s journey on a personal path to success. No matter what your political persuasion may be, the story of Barack Obama's extraordinary climb to success can be used as an example for our children of how hard work, dedication, and the relentless pursuit of one's dreams will help one achieve the impossible. Obama's path to the presidency was begun against all odds and resulted in the most astonishing election victory in American history. We and our children are now witnessing events that will be told to children for generations to come. This mind-blowing success story gives absolute proof that we can achieve far beyond our wildest imagination.

I urge all of you parents to sit down today and talk with your children about Barack Obama and his path to the presidency. Use this discussion to teach your children to dream big, believe in themselves, work hard, and to persevere against all odds. Help your children to train the inner voice to say “Yes, I can.” When you combine this dialogue with the strategies presented in the previous Help Your Child Find Success entry in this blog, you will find that no matter what challenge your child is experiencing, he or she will have more hope, enhanced strength, and increased endurance. The previously unattainable idea will transform into a more obtainable aspiration.